A 23-year-old cop on patrol in a high-crime area of Montgomery, Alabama, has been charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man.
The cop, Aaron “A.C.” Smith, shot Gregory Gunn, 59, during a lengthy struggle early in the morning last Thursday after pulling him over for being a suspicious person. An attorney for the young cop has given the press a version of the night’s events and said his client was charged for political reasons, NBC News reported.
The basic story holds that the cop was on patrol 3 a.m. Thursday when he stopped Gunn as he walked down the street on the way home from a neighborhood card game, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
The Alabama cop stopped him, believing the man to be acting suspiciously. A struggle and altercation followed that continued for a block. It ended when the cop fired his weapon and shot Gunn multiple times, killing him. The man had been carrying what turned out to be a long pole, Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley said.
The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) probed the shooting, found probable cause for a warrant, and charged Smith with murder. The investigation is still ongoing, and when it has been completed, the case will go before a grand jury.
The Alabama cop’s attorney, Mickey McDermott, has provided a slightly different, more detailed version of events. District Attorney Daryl Bailey has refuted his description.
The lawyer said Smith only used deadly force after trying non-lethal force a half-dozen times. The Alabama cop was patrolling Gunn’s high-crime neighborhood on a third shift with a “red sheet” of crimes in the area in hand. Staffing issues required the young cop, who joined the department in 2012, to patrol the area by himself on the midnight shift.
Gunn was stopped for a routine search, at which point he “broke and ran, and Officer Smith gave chase.” The pair fought in the street, and the Alabama cop used his baton and his Taser six times to subdue him.
“After all of that, Mr. Gunn picked up a weapon and turned towards [Smith]. He had no choice at that point but to use his firearm to protect himself. It is a terrible tragedy what occurred. But Mr. Gunn bears the responsibility for that tragedy, not this young officer.”
Bailey countered the story by saying that the Alabama cop “did have a choice. Why did any of that happen – that’s the crux of the matter.” Since the cop has just been charged and the investigation isn’t complete, he didn’t say much and didn’t address certain details of the attorney’s version of events. But he did hint that the officer was charged based on evidence not yet shared with the public.
“I’m not going to get into the evidence and what’s there or not there, but I will say that … most of the rumors that have been put out there about this case and the different aspects of it are untrue. I’ll leave it at that.”
The rumors are that body camera or dash-cam footage of the altercation doesn’t exist.
The police are standing behind the cop since he was charged with murder. They raised $150,000 to pay his bail and many are still giving money to help pay for his legal bills. McDermott said his client was charged out of protocol — a grand jury usually determines probable cause before an arrest — an accusation the district attorney also rejected.
Further, Smith’s lawyer has said that the Alabama cop was only charged to prevent protests, which are already underway.
“Why are we allowing this to take place? Why are we allowing an officer to have to go into hiding out of a fear for his life? Why have they deviated so from the normal protocol? This was a publicity move to stop protests. Nothing more.”
[Image via Vladimir Arndt/Shutterstock]